BOUND BROOK, NJ - Mariposa Park, in Bound Brook, celebrated its grand opening in early August, and its revitalization is owed to a group of local students called the Student Ambassadors for Community Health.
Bridgewater’s Stephanie Moench is the leader of the group of students from the Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School, in Bridgewater, who renovated the abandoned park at the corner of Vosseler and West Main Street in Bound Brook.
The group partnered with Middle Earth and the 4-H to find a solution to a health issue in the community. They were sponsored by a grant program through the Robert Wood Johnson New Jersey Health Initiatives.
“We decided to renovate a park that we saw was abandoned, and it was known as an unsafe area for nefarious activity,” said Bound Brook resident Liliana Gomez, a senior in the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences at the Vo-Tech. “Another group in town was trying to create a community garden in the same park, so we were able to partner with them, and they did the garden and we did everything else.”
Gomez said they planted trees, created a free library, painted a butterfly mural and more.
Another part of the project was the storybook trail, according to Bound Brook resident Maida Ahmad, also a senior at Bound Brook High School and the Vo-Tech.
“It was one of the major aspects of the project,” she said. “We have a trail that is split into sections, and you follow along the trail and when you reach the end, the story concludes.”
Ahmad said the story was written and illustrated by members of the group, and is written in English and Spanish.
“A lot of people in Bound Brook are bilingual,” she said. “The trail is eight miles long, and is about a butterfly.”
Ahmad said it was painted on the main streets, to heighten the fact that Bound Brook is a very walkable town.
“And it promotes healthy living,” she said.
The purpose of the project is to promote healthy living through the walking trail and the garden of fresh foods.
Ahmad said Bound Brook only has one source of fresh produce, and that is ShopRite, but now there will be fresh food from the garden.
Gomez said the group tried to be proactive throughout the summer in getting information out about the park, and they held classes for kids at the town summer camp, where the campers could paint wooden butterflies that were tied to a fence at the park.
“We also dig yoga in the park,” she said. “We were trying to promote the park to let people know where it is.”
Gomez said it was a very rewarding project for all the students who volunteered to be part, and a majority of the work happened in July.
“We thought it would be fun, but we didn’t realize how much labor goes into it,” she said. “It makes you appreciate all the work we did, and it was great to see how well it turned out and how people are using the park now.”
Ahmad said they are now planning to renovate a basketball court at the park and install new benches, plus they are working with the town council to get a sidewalk in to replace the dirt road there so it is more accessible for those who are handicapped. In addition, they are hoping to get playground equipment for the park.
“Everyone really comes together when there is a project like this,” Ahmad said. “Neighbors gave us tools and more.”
“When we had our block party, it was eye opening for adults to see the youth doing something,” she said. “We were doing something for our community.”